EPL 2007-2008: Arsenal 2 – Blackburn 0

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
February 12th, 2008 • 10:04 am

The first piece of good news last night came with the team sheet. In spite of their injuries sustained while on international duty, both Flamini and Senderos were available. It was a relief, particularly for the central defence, but it was quite clear, based on what happened during the African Cup of Nations, that Kolo Touré should not be rushed back into action.

Relief turned to joy within a few minutes when the big Swiss defender lost his marker and opened the score with a powerful header from close range. It was the ideal start, and the goals that we have scored from set pieces really have made a difference this year.

An early goal is often a double-edged sword, because it can give the players an excessive amount of confidence and it is always a slender lead to protect. And so it proved again last night. While the Gunners continued to dominate for a while, they didn’t double their lead, and then slowly allowed Blackburn back into the game.

The Rovers were only rarely a real threat, but they still enjoyed too much possession for my taste, and most of the game was a bit too tense for comfort from the fans’ perspective. Of course, the statistics at the end of the game did show that we had most shots on goal, and that we created the most dangerous opportunities. But still it remained one-nil until the dying seconds of the game and, like Arsène said, the outcome in such a situation is often that you either concede an equalizer or score a second near the end because the opposition takes more risks.

Fortunately for us, what happened was the latter, with yet more trickery by Hleb and another excellent finish by Adebayor. Contrary to what Mark Hughes said, the score line was not flattering for us, but it is true that things remained mathematically tight until the very end. But most of the danger was and remained theoretical, and I don’t think there were too many arguments about who was the better team last night.

It was also quite remarkable that the game was not much of a physical contest. After all, “Blackeye Rovers” have a bit of a (deserved) reputation. But possibly the absence of a few key players through (undoubtedly deserved) suspensions played in our favour here, although it is also quite clear that our own midfield has “toughened up” in recent times and that it has become significantly harder to bully us around.

So, another three points and, yes, suddenly a five-point lead at the top of the table, with only 12 games to go. It was a surprising turn of events for the week-end, but, for whatever reason, our chief rivals Manchester United were indeed significantly below their best at home in the derby, and Manchester City deservedly left the venue with the spoils. It was surprising especially so soon after we had managed a relatively easy victory ourselves against the same team on their home turf. But I guess that Swedish manager really does have something special about him. Not many managers can claim to have achieved a season double against the Red Devils in their careers, let alone at the first attempt.

Could all this be a turning point in this season? I am afraid we have already wondered the same thing several times this season, and things are still far from over.

We can count of Manchester United doing their best to try and bounce back as quickly as possible. And the Gunners themselves do not have the easiest run of fixtures between now and the end of the season. There is still a lot of work to do, but this week-end might mark the time when the Gunners have finally been recognized more widely as serious title contenders this year.

There is now, of course, another couple of competitions to contend with, with a very tricky couple of fixtures in the next 10 days. The temptation at this point might be, mentally at least, to believe that the focus is indeed on winning the Premier League. But the Gunners must try and find the highest possible level of motivation in the cup games as well, because nothing has been won yet and because, well, we do want to try and actually win this Champions’ League trophy some time soon, don’t we?

3 Responses to “EPL 2007-2008: Arsenal 2 – Blackburn 0”

  1. MaCinJay says:

    I didn’t watch Sparky’s post-match interview but he must be smoking his socks if he thinks the score flattered Arsenal – if it wasn’t for Brad Friedel Rovers would have been beaten by a much bigger margin.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Well, as long as they let us win without crocking our players, he can say whatever he pleases in his post-match interviews, as far as I am concerned. :-)

  3. MaCinJay says:

    Yes, I was also surprised that there wasn’t more edge to the game. If memory serves me right there was only one booking, for Fabregas.

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